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Air Force to airmen: Please stop shooting prairie dogs with blow darts

Lest you get caught by security forces
Max Hauptman Avatar
Prairie Dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) near Little Missouri Grasslands on spring morning, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota. (Getty Images)

Minot Air Force Base. It’s cold. It’s in the middle of nowhere. It’s in North Dakota. It might also be overrun with prairie dogs? And, as it turns out, some airmen may have taken to a certain weapon to combat this rodent scourge: Blow darts.

“Blow darts are prohibited in base housing! They are considered weapons,” reads an April update from Minot Air Force Base family housing office. 

Does this mean that Airmen are shooting blow darts from their backyards at these prairie dogs? Why yes, yes it does.

“Please do not use these weapons on prairie dogs/dakrats, it is inhumane,” reads the Facebook post

What’s a dakrat, you might ask? It’s basically a gopher, a prairie dog, or for the zoological specialists, a Richardson’s ground squirrel. They burrow, they chew on things, and they generally inhabit the same land that Minot Air Force Base sits on. 

If you dig into the archives, this isn’t a new problem at Minot. “Newcomers to the base often are delighted by the cute little critters,” reads a 13 year old dispatch from the base’s public affairs office. 

But fast forward a decade, and the story appeared to have changed: 

“There is no way to know how many there are,” said Nicholas Lester, 5th Civil Engineer Squadron pest management supervisor, in a July 2019 Air Force press release. “We eliminate three to five thousand a year. To say there are over ten thousand is a justifiable estimate.”

At the time, Balfour Beatty, the private company managing housing at Minot, offered to fix the problem. But, we have also seen how dedicated Balfour Beatty is to taking care of military housing. (This is the same housing company that was found guilty of fraud, only to turn around and reportedly commit fraud once again.)

With the base removing any natural predators for the gophers, or prairie dogs, or dakrats, there’s nothing stopping ten thousand of them from burrowing in. But that doesn’t mean you should be taking to blow darts – and where exactly are Airmen getting these things? – to solve the problem. 

In any event, “Security Forces is aware of the situation and will take action if you are caught using these,” reads the Facebook post.

From the crocodile at Naval Air Station Key West that thought a runway was the perfect place to soak up the sun to the moose up in Alaska who have no problem feeling free to roam around Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, the fauna clearly has little concern for military readiness. 

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